'As we count up the memories from one journey, we head off on another. Remembering those who went ahead. Remembering those who will follow after. And someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon.'
This is a difficult review for me to write, as I had a completely emotional response to the story. It’s a simple enough story – Satoru, a young Japanese business man adopts a stray cat he calls Nana. They live contentedly together for five years, then Satoru tells Nana that he can no longer keep him and will find him a new home. They take a number a road trips together across Japan, visiting friends from different stages of Satoru’s life, to see if one of them would be suitable to keep Nana. For various reasons, none of them turn out to be suitable.
It was easy to guess early on just why Satoru thinks he needs to find a new home for Nana, so I wasn’t expecting to respond to the last few chapters by bawling my eyes out.
The story starts out slowly, but gradually becomes an enthralling tale about the bond between a man and his cat. It’s also about the bonds Satoru has formed with other people over his life, demonstrated as he visits his closest friends. The point of view varies between Nana, the cat, and a third person narrator who provides us with the back story of each of Satoru’s friends.
Satoru had to move frequently as a child, and he made a close friend at each of the places he lived. These are the people he goes to visit with Nana, and through the visits we learn about the tragedies of Satoru’s childhood, and also about his caring nature and essential kindness to everyone he comes in contact with. Rather than resenting being forced to move so often, Satoru tells his aunt, Noriko, at one point how lucky he was to make so many new friends in each new place they lived.
People who have never had a cat sometimes have an idea that cats are aloof, and not comforting companion animals. Dogs seem to collect all the glory of being ‘man’s best friend’. But I’ve been lucky enough to have several loving cats in my life, including my current one who loves to curl up on our laps in the evening, and generally just wants to be in our company. So I could relate quite easily to the bond between Satoru and Nana, with Nana loyally determined to stay as Satoru’s cat (… "I will never, ever, leave him.")
This is a beautiful and whimsical story, one that may draw out tears at its ending, but one that will also make you feel for the importance of the bonds people form with the
families they find in their life, those people who may not actually be your family but who you chose to love.